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The World Of Straight & Gay-Friendly

Icon for Wikimedia project´s LGBT portal (Port...

Icon for Wikimedia project´s LGBT portal (Portal:LGBT). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had the privilege of being the straight voice of Gaysi for a year and a half now. I’ve listened to coming-out conversations. I’ve met openly gay people. I’ve attended the launch of a book about gays in India. I’ve faced my own conflicted confusion and resolved it. I’ve even been hit upon by a gay person. This is all me and how homosexuality fits into my head.

With Section 377 and Indian Gay Prides, my world mirrors the world around. People are talking now, yes. Some agree, some don’t but at least it is being acknowledged. Ordinarily, I should have been an indifferent observer since I’m not gay myself. But I’ve been drawn into the world of these questions, first by friends closetted-suspected-gay, then the blog and finally all the other people and associations that happened as a result. It’s changing my life.

Being a straight and gay-friendly person is not as easy as it looks. Having sorted out (mostly, I hope!) where I myself stand on the issue, I find there’s a whole new can of surprises (and now, let’s not call them all worms) opening up. Some I resolve, some I rationalise and on some, I’m still ambivalent. The list has the four most important areas of my life, which is a good indication of just how big the question has become even for a supposedly uninvolved bystander.

Family

When I first started writing for Gaysi, I worried about what my parents would think. They could be tempted to associate my still single status, my fiery (often anti-male) behaviour with possible queerdom. It took a lot of self-examination before I could stand by my belief without righteous indignation and only a rational stating of facts. I’m happy to say it went through quite smoothly. It’s possible that they may be thankful that I’m only writing about homosexuality and not practicing it but I’m willing to live with that.

Love life

The average Indian male seems to be homophobic, this is true. At some point of time, the question of homosexuality comes up (it has been in the news after all). I’m in a dilemma when I come up against homophobia. I have friends who are gay and to be involved with someone who may not treat them right, doesn’t feel right. On the other hand, I also wonder if this topic is like politics and religion, where differing viewpoints can be respected and need not interfere in the relationship.

That doesn’t sound fair to me.

Friendship

Before introducing a straight friend to a gay friend, I make sure to mention the gay orientation. It’s not part of the general description to make a person interesting (“She’s a film-maker. He speaks 5 foreign languages”). It’s a veiled safety-clause that says, I’m telling you this beforehand so if you have a problem with it, say so now or forever hold your peace. I hate having to state that since in an ideal world it shouldn’t matter. I know it smacks of underhanded discrimination but I’m rationalizing it as a practical solution.

But even this is complicated by the fact that a lot of straight people are not homophobic as much as homo-apathetic. That’s until they’re faced with a situation and then their reactions could go anyway.

Recently, I introduced a gay friend to my companion at a party. It turned out they stayed close to each other and my gay friend offered my companion a lift. Later that night, he called me in a huff. It transpired that in conversation during the ride, my straight friend had asked,

“Are you hitting on me?”

Now it could be that my companion was just joking. Or he may have been serious whereupon it might have been a deep-seated phobia or just an innocent misreading of signals. My gay friend on the other hand, prides himself on being able to discern the gay strain in others, even through confusion or outright denial. He might have been on track there or he might have been mistaken.

It’s an awkward situation for me in the end, even though I wasn’t even a part of the conversation. They’re both friends and I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to think about who is closer and who I may have to, eventually, let go.

Professional life

This hasn’t actually posed a problem but I’ll add a ‘yet’ to that. I had a coming-out experience of my own kind recently when I dropped my  five-year long anonymity and revealed my identity to my readers. The worlds of social media, writing and work are merging and I’m finding it more practical to consolidate than to compartmentalize. My blogging activities are now ennumerated in my resume. No organisation will openly admit to being gay-unfriendly. But I’ve been a woman in the corporate world and I know all about biases and prejudices that are never acknowledged but hinder you anyway. I wonder whether I’m setting myself up for yet another one of those and I’ve been tempted (several times) to take Gaysi off my list. It’s the easy option but each time I hit delete, I also get that bad feeling in my head that feels like cowardice.

In each of these situations, I’m faced with the question of how important this issue is to me. I’m not gay, I’m not a close relation of anyone who is (that’s to say, I’m not living with or supporting anyone who is). Why then should I bother? Because it’s the right thing to do, this is true.

But there’s just this much I can do. And while I will never endorse discrimination, I often wonder if I can just pipe down instead of crusading for a quest I’m not even a part of. In this world of so many sins, I must pick my battles. Homosexuality is on the list but I can’t honestly say I’ll always have the courage to keep it there.

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The Advocate For Cheating & Other Married Men

In my 10-year-dating life, I’ve seen a number of different kinds of relationships and dates, which have given rise to the Character Sketches. Now I come up against yet another one – The Married Man.

First and foremost, I’d like to say that I have a lot of respect for the institution of marriage, and indeed, no less for arranged marriages. My parents had an arranged marriage and they celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary this year. If you ask then, why I’m not married, well it is simply because I haven’t found anyone I can have that kind of a relationship with, yet.

It is a fact that the social environment is very different today than the one that my parents met and and started their relationship in. Neither mum nor dad really have independent friend circles, let alone know too many single people of their generation. I belong to several social circuits that include couples, some where I’m friends with the guy, some with the girl.

Friendships themselves have changed. While my parents would never even consider introducing a flirtatious note into their discussions with their social groups, my generation itself seems to be a flirty one. Sex, attraction, relationship are all a little too ‘out there’ if you ask me. Romance, privacy and intimacy have been sacrificed to free expression, enhanced comfort zones and devil-may-carishness. Okay, I’m getting preachy. I enjoy being a part of this world, it works for me. But I think in an attempt to get it all out there, we’ve meandered so far into the grey that we may have lost sight of black and white.

Now here’s the thing. Being as I am, a single woman who’s also friendly and approachable, I find my social circuit quite expansive and complex. The Married Man is only one of those many dark alleys in this complex terrain. How do I treat him? If he has been a friend before he acquired the tag, then the situation is relatively simpler. I take heed of how his wife feels about his women friends and our friendship accordingly moves along or away. That’s how much I respect marriage…enough to think that a spouse does have the right to deliberately or inadvertently alter the nature of one’s other relationships.

How about if the Married Man is someone I’ve met later? Do I treat him like I treat all the other guys? The flirtatious tone does need to be dropped, not everyone gets that it’s part of my personality and has little to do with the person I speak to. But what about when the guy is flirting with me? And before you jump to the defense of poor mankind and how they’re all just misunderstood souls and not every man is like that, let me just say I’ve been propositioned, flirted with and pursued by a sizeable number of married men too.

It’s not the fact that they’re married and flirting with me that shocks me so much. It is the cool rationale that they feed into it. There’s the occasional ‘my wife and I don’t seem to be in love really’ bugger who hasn’t figured out that I never fall for the crybaby sop types. Then there’s the blatant ‘So?’ which at least I can counter with an equally blatant ‘So I’m not interested.’ with zero fear of hurting the guy’s seemingly non-existant sensitivity. And then there is the last one, the Advocate. I call him thus not on account of his profession (he could be a doctor or a mechanic for as much as it matters). He’s the best advocate ever, for cheating and he has his facts and evidence on hand. The jury may very well be his..it’s tempting to say the least.

This guy may be a Male Slut, he may be a charmer or he may not. The point is he has an almost breakproof logic about why it is perfectly legitimate, reasonable and valid to commit what I cannot think of as anything but adultery. There is the elaborately constructed dialogue over today’s moving social order liberally spiced with statistics about divorce rates, paternity suits and pre-nuptial agreements. There are references to Freud, Darwin and Einstein in a discussion about people’s relationships. There is the sweeping confidence that makes you alternately wonder whether you’re being old-fashioned and how he can be so cold and hot at the same time.

I’ve been flattered, appalled and insulted by offers of this type. And finally I come out of the fire of sin and temptation, I believe, unsullied. The last time I was made to endure one of these conversations, I finally said,

I don’t want to hear about whether the institution of marriage is valid anymore or not. It has sanctity for me because I say it does.

The thing that really bothers me is the fact that I seem to be carrying the onus of fulfilment of committment, of the guy to his wife. There is of course no denying that if I say no, he’ll just take his interest elsewhere. And what’s more, if I were to say yes, it would just fall on my lot to be branded that horrible name – the other woman, the one that messes with married men. And finally, it is the knowledge that it isn’t so much fear of social stigma that makes me say no, I say no because it doesn’t feel right.

It’s not my fault he got hitched too early or to the wrong person or for the wrong reasons. It’s not my problem that he has made a commitment that he doesn’t want to honor. And it’s never going to be ‘just sex’ for me. Or even if it is, ‘just sex’ doesn’t happen with someone who has made a public vow to not have sex with anyone other than the person he married.

Now let’s pull back a few steps. The above is when it reaches that critical point of deciding which way a friendship is going to go – platonic or otherwise. But how about that vast, grey area before that? Is it okay to watch a movie with a guy friend who just happens to be married? Is it okay to meet him for dinner? Coffee at midnight? Don’t these smack of dating?

The old ‘it is the intention that matters’ doesn’t hold. That’s not what real life is about. Real life is about human beings who experience attraction and relationship in fluctuating, varying tones every minute. And in a gray world, sometimes you have nothing but your own stubbornness to carry you through the tide (even if you’re all by yourself at the end of it).

I don’t have any answers and truth be told, I’m not looking for any. But I am certainly wondering if any of you has experienced what I’m talking about, from within the marriage or from the outside, like I have. And what do you have to say about it?

ssp of August 1, 2009

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